All this time we thought fall was a synonym for autumn. But as the years go by, doesn't it became increasingly apparent that it's just a way of describing the fate of the Boston Red Sox once the leaves change colors?
For the 80th consecutive season, the Boston Red Sox will not be the last team standing. There is no more consistent fall than that.
This time, they were actually favored to beat the Cleveland Indians in this AL Division Series.
The Red Sox, who showed so much grit during the summer, had won 92 games to clinch the wild card; the Indians staggered into the playoffs winning baseball's worst division -- the AL Central -- with an unspectacular 89 victories.
So how is it that in this series, the Indians played with all of the heart the Red Sox played with all season, got all the breaks the Red Sox got all season, and the Beantown bunch was dusted out in four games?
There is no rhyme or reason to why the Red Sox came crumbling down after blowing the daylights out of the Indians in Game 1.
No rhyme or reason why they lost the final two games of the series at Fenway Park by a measly run, culminating in Saturday's 2-1 heartbreaker.
No rhyme or reason why the extra hit or two they needed to get this series back to Jacobs Field for a deciding Game 5 never came.
No rhyme or reason why it will be the Indians, and not the Red Sox, taking on the mighty New York Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS on Tuesday.
No matter if they are the favorites or the underdogs, the BoSox , for whatever reason, can't deliver that knockout punch this time of year. It doesn't matter if it's Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemsi, Bill Buckner, Mo Vaughn or Nomar Garciaparra wearing the uniforms. The cast changes repeatedly and the same ending keeps coming back.
| Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra waves goodbye to the Fenway Park crowd; fans that are used to seeing their team head home for the winter without a World Series title. (AP) |
In fact, the Indians have shed their somewhat sorry history by winning the pennant two of the last three years. It seems just a matter of time before Chief Wahoo will be in the midst of another championship parade.
The Indians, a seasoned playoff group the Red Sox probably learned a lot from in this series, seemed ripe for a loss through the first seven innings.
Boston manager Jimy Williams, though second-guessed on every street corner of New England for starting Pete Schourek instead of $75-million man Pedro Martinez, was just six outs away from being the toast of the town. Schourek had been masterful (5 1/3 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs), and the Red Sox rode a solo shot from Garciaparra to a 1-0 lead.
Fenway was rocking. Martinez was in the dugout fantasizing about his Game 5 start. And then the roof came tumbling down with the weight only the Red Sox -- and the Chicago Cubs -- can understand.
"We lost our last game in October," Williams said. "But all of these kids left their hearts on that field."
Why not? It has become an annual rite of passage around here -- almost as common as the fans and the talk shows second-guessing the manager. And Williams will hear plenty of it over these next few months.
Just as Darrell Johnson, John McNamara and Don Zimmer -- former Sox managers who have lost big games before him -- seemingly every critical move Williams made blew up in flames.
After watching reliever Derek Lowe breeze through 1 2/3 innings of the most effortless relief you will ever see, Williams strangely decided to bring in closer Tom "Flash" Gordon to start the eighth -- something the reliever hadn't done all year.
Said Williams: "It was the right move, right time."
The Indians would surely agree. Unable to even come close to touching Schourek or Lowe, they feasted on Flash.
The Indians would be ahead just minutes later and Fenway would be numb when David Justice -- a modern day Mr. October? -- slammed a 2-run double to the alley in center field.
"Special players do special things. Big-time players step up in big-time situations," said Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove, who will lead his Tribe into the ALCS for the third time in four years.
Once again, the Red Sofound out that the hard way.
That fizzing sound you heard at Fenway after Justice's double was all the life being sucked out of the faithful.
There was no surer sign of that than in the bottom of the ninth, when the Red Sox needed just a run to stay alive. Sensing the silence from the crowd, a couple of Boston players came to the top step of the dugout waving their arms in the air in a gesture for the crowd to make some noise.
In an almost surreal scene, the players kept waving those arms and the fans kept biting their tongues. Defeat was not official yet, but as far as the fans went, it was over. They have enough experience in this matter to know.
For the 80th time in as many years, the Boston cynics had it pegged. You'd think the sheer law of averages would swing the pendulum in the Red Sox' favor one of these years.
It isn't as if the Red Sox had no heart or didn't display any skill. Martinez spun a near masterpiece in Game 1, and the devastating 3-4 tandem of Vaughn and Garciaparra drove in 18 of 19 Boston runs in the series. But where was lady luck? As usual, nowhere near the Red Sox.
"You can play your heart out all you want," said Vaughn, an impending free agent who might have played his last game in a Boston uniform Saturday, "but you need help from the man upstairs too."
Obviously, God does not bleed Red Sox red. Especially this time of year, when the BoSox can't help but succumb to the depths of their annual fall.
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